Public telecom firms will procure network equipment as per the existing general financial rules that impose restrictions on vendors from countries that share land border with India, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Tuesday. In response to a question that if the telecom ministry plans to allow the use of Chinese equipment for 5G, Minister of State for Communications Sanjay Dhotre said 5G technology in telecommunications network has not yet commenced.
"The focus is currently on trials of India-specific 5G applications and use cases," Dhotre said. Telecom operators Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and BSNL have applied for spectrum to start 5G field trials but the government is yet to approve the same. BSNL has applied with Chinese telecom equipment firm ZTE and the company is looking to revise its application. More than 50 per cent of telecom network gears installed in the network of BSNL are from Chinese firms ZTE and Huawei.
In response to a question from Congress MP Vivek Tankha on measures to prevent procurement from Chinese companies, Dhotre said, "…so far as public procurement of telecom equipment is concerned, the same will be as per General Financial Rules (GFR), 2017 including amendment dated 23rd July 2020." The government in July amended the GFR 2017 to enable imposition of restrictions on bidders from countries which share a land border with India on grounds of defence of India, or matters directly or indirectly related thereto including national security.
Public companies need to scrap tenders if a qualified bidder is from a country which shares a land border with India which includes China. Replying to a separate question whether India has banned purchasing telecom gears from Chinese companies, Dhotre said, "No Sir. Licensed Telecom Service Providers deploy network equipment procured from various manufacturers, subject to compliance to stipulated terms and conditions of license agreement including security conditions." He added that to address security concerns, there are comprehensive security conditions as part of an existing licence agreement for telecom service providers.